By: Francis Manapul & Brian Buccellato (writers and artists)

The Story: The city that never stops—just did.

The Review: I eat spring rolls dry.  Even though I’m Vietnamese, I can’t stand the smell of fish sauce, so the stuff rarely touches anything I eat.  When I pass on the bowl of pungent liquid, people always react with surprise, like they’ve just discovered some critical fact about myself.  Frankly, I have no idea what my prejudice against fish sauce says about me, but it’s taught me that you can get a strange sense of enlightenment when you learn these asides about people.

This applies even more so to fictional characters.  At first glance, Barry seems so good-natured and clean-cut, you’re surprised he takes coffee at all, let alone “I feel like I could use a fifty-shot espresso right about now…”  But that drink’s not an option for our favorite speedster; its jittery effect on his body, combined with his powers, can lead to unpredictable results, like vibrating through the floor into “the women’s basement locker room before getting control of myself.”  It’s a funny story which lends some much-needed color to Barry’s vanilla personality.

The anecdote also naturally preludes his rescue of a crashing jetliner by vibrating it through the Gem Cities bridge.  Interestingly, the Flash doesn’t follow up this feat by confronting the villain responsible for the cities-wide blackout; no such villain appears.  Instead, we get a sequence of something we haven’t seen in a while: our hero simply serving the public, be it retrieving kids trapped on a roller coaster or wheeling a man on a gurney straight to the hospital.

Better yet, the rest of the Central City P.D. get in on the job, with Singh, Forrest, and Patty doing their share.  Manapul-Buccellato couldn’t have chosen a more endearing way to build up the supporting cast, letting them act beyond their roles as the Flash’s out-of-costume ciphers and putting them on the same heroic footing as the star.

While her bookworm glasses tend to give Patty a soft, almost frail air, we see the woman wearing them is anything but.  Once you see her don a bulletproof vest to venture fearlessly into the darkened city, helping anyone she sees, you may start crushing on her a little.  And that’s before we get to the two of them riding the P.D. mounted division’s horses to traverse the un-drivable streets, she taking the lead while he struggles (“Whoa!  Not that way…”  “You’re a natural, Barry.”).  It’s just plain fun, something comics are in short supply of nowadays.

Meanwhile, Manapul-Buccellato deftly juggle a couple other plotlines.  There’s Dr. Elias, using his scientific talents to investigate the source of the EMP which shut down the Gem Cities, only to land in a rather precarious situation.  And there’s Iris, entrusted with Captain Cold’s message to the Flash: “The Rogues intend to pay him back in kind.”

By now, the art on this title has become something of a byword for excellence.  While not quite on the rich, masterful level of J.H. Williams III, Manapul’s eye for design, from the outstanding title page (complete with retro-cutout font and shapes) to the following action sequence and its intercutting vectors of Flash iconography, each page engages you with new details each time you look it over.  And Buccellato pulls major weight this issue, making our hero’s electric golds and reds pop amidst the dark gloom of the settings.

Conclusion: Entertaining from start to finish, with great character moments and well-woven plotlines, Manapul and Buccellato prove, with a few exceptions, they’re really getting a handle on this writing thing.  A very promising trend for the series.

Grade: B+

– Minhquan Nguyen

Some Musings: – I wonder if Barry practices his Flash autograph at home?  Just so no one notices it looks a heckuva lot like his own signature.

– And the award for Dumbest Response to a Life-Threatening Situation goes to unseen airplane passenger for, “Are we dead?”